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Distance Control

Most 3-Putts = Poor distance control on 1st putt.


The problem is almost always incorrect speed, not inaccurate control of direction.

Basic Understanding

You can’t learn how to improve your long putting simply by reading about what to do. (Long putting is sometimes referred to as lag putting).

You can fast forward your progress with some basic understanding of what is involved in distance control

There are certain factors that influence the speed your ball travels over the putting green surface and the distance it travels. Some of these factors you will have no control over. Others you can control.

Two Schools of Thought

  1. Your objective should be to leave the ball within an imaginary circle with a three-foot radius around the hole for an easy two-putt.

  2. You should putt every putt with the intention of making it. Near enough is not good enough.

Uncontrollable Factors

At the start of play you need to know how your ball will react with the grass it has to travel over.

  • Speed of the green

    This is something that the course superintendent decides either alone, or in consultation with others. It is never a constant speed and can vary day to day and even over the course of a day.

    On some less well maintained courses it can vary from green to green which makes distance control very difficult.

  • Slope of the green

    This varies especially in the area of the hole location. Putting greens are not level. If they were, water would pool rather than run off the surface.

    If you play regularly at the same course, you are better off than a visitor as you should already be familiar with the contours of your greens.

  • Characteristics of the green
    They also influence the roll of your ball. Greens with bent grass on average run faster than greens with bermuda grass.

    Factors such as mowing height, texture, grain, surface dampness all play a significant part in determining your ball's speed.

Uncontrollable factors make distance control in putting a challenge. You can moan about them, but with a bit of homework and Reference Putting before your round you can largely get a handle on them.

Controllable Factors - Static

Golf Ball

A two-piece golf ball putts differently to a three- or four-piece ball. The harder the ball, the faster it is going to come off the face of your putter. With the same length of backstroke, a hard ball will travel further than a softer ball.

Become a one type ball specialist.

You take control by playing with the same make and model of ball throughout your round. Don’t confuse your brain by playing different balls.


The mass of your putter will also determine how far your ball will travel.

A heavier putter will send your ball further than a lighter putter.

This is not usually a problem as you can soon get used to the weight of your putter and learn how far a certain stroke length will send your ball.

The standard putter is built with about 3 to 4 degrees of loft. This amount of loft is just enough to lift the ball to the top of the grass to get it rolling. If your putting action decreases or increases the loft by too much you will cause your ball to bounce on contact. This will lead to poor distance control.

Custom fit a putter you like, and stick with it.

Controllable Factor - Dynamic


The most repeatable Tempo in nature is gravity. Gravity never changes – objects in free fall always fall at the same speed. A good illustration of gravity is that of the pendulum clock with its constant rhythmic pace of tick-tock.

The length the pendulum swings through is the same as it swings back. If you can base your tempo to match gravity, the only variable in your stroke is how far you take your putter back and through.

Most golfers struggle with a consistent tempo. They get quick on short putts and decelerate on long putts. The solution is to use nature's own tempo.

Raise your arms to your side to shoulder length and then let them fall freely. At the end of their fall let your hands clap together as they meet in the middle. This is the gravity tempo that is wired into your brain.

Use the same tempo for all putts.

The tempo of your stroke – the time it takes to complete your stroke - is crucial to long putting. Once you can teach yourself to putt with a consistent tempo, distance control gets easier.

You control the distance your ball travels by simply adjusting the length of your backstroke, not the force at which the ball is struck.

A consistent tempo is also invaluable in dealing with breaking putts. The ability to deliver your ball to the hole at a constant predetermined speed means that there is only one optimal path for every putt.

Quality of Putting Stroke

The Quality of Your Stroke in respect to distance control relates to the contact force of the sweetspot of your putter with the sweetspot (equator) of your ball.

Off-centre hits affect the distance your ball travels. A putt off the toe will not go as far as a putt off the heel. Neither of them will travel as far as a centred putt.

On distance putts it is more difficult to make solid and consistent contact on the putterface as your backstroke is longer. Balls that come up short are often caused by off-centre contact. One way to improve your contact is to watch your putterhead as it meets the ball.

Another suggestion to help with distance control is that you should stand taller with an open stance on long putts. This gives you a clearer view of your aimline as well as a better feel for the distance.

Useful Tip

On a long- or mid-range putt visualise a two-by-four length of wood about two feet beyond the hole.

Your objective is to putt your ball into the space between the hole and the length of wood without hitting the imaginary backboard

Distance Control

That is a brief background to understanding distance control, also known as speed control. The question now is how to improve your touch? The answer is simple: PRACTICE.

This advice is beautifully phrased by Harvey Penick in his book The Game for a Lifetime when he wrote "I say touch can be learned. I don't say touch can be taught. The way you learn touch is by practice. There is no other way."

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